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21 Aug 2015

Lean security

Lean manufacturing or kaizen is a philosophy or framework comprising a variety of approaches designed to make manufacturing and production systems as efficient and effective as possible, approaches such as:
  • Design-for-life - taking account of the practical realities of production, usage and maintenance when products are designed, rather than locking-in later nightmares through the thoughtless inclusion of elements or features that prove unmanageable;
  • Just-in-time delivery of parts to the production line at the quantity, quality, time and place they are needed (kanban), instead of being stockpiled in a warehouse or parts store, collecting dust, depreciating, adding inertia and costs if product changes are needed;
  • Elimination of waste (muda) - processes are changed to avoid the production of waste, or at the very least waste materials become useful/valuable products, while wasted time and effort is eliminated by making production processes slick with smooth, continuous, even flows at a sensible pace rather than jerky stop-starts;
  • An obsessive, all-encompassing and continuous focus on quality assurance, to the extent that if someone spots an issue anywhere on the production line, the entire line may be stopped in order to fix the root cause rather than simply pressing ahead in the hope that the quality test and repair function (a.k.a. Final Inspection or Quality Control) will bodge things into shape later ... hopefully without the customer noticing latent defects;
  • Most of all, innovation - actively seeking creative ways to bypass/avoid roadblocks, make things better for all concerned, and deliver products that go above and beyond customer expectations, all without blowing the budget.
Service industries and processes/activities more generally can benefit from similar lean approaches ... so how might kaizen be applied to information risk management and security?
  • Design-for-security - products and processes should be designed from the outset to take due account of information security and privacy requirements throughout their life, implying that those requirements need to be elaborated-on, clarified/specified and understood by the designers;
  • Just-in-case - given that preventive security controls cannot be entirely relied-upon, detective and corrective controls are also necessary;
  • Elimination of doubt - identifying, characterizing and understanding the risks to information (even as they evolve and mutate) is key to ensuring that our risk treatments are necessary, appropriate and sufficient, hence high-quality, reliable, up-to-date information about information risk (including, of course, risk and security metrics) is itself an extremely valuable asset, worth investing in;
  • Quality assurance applies directly - information security serves the business needs of the organization, and should be driven by risks of concern to various stakeholders, not just 'because we say so';
  • Innovation also applies directly, as stated above.  It takes creative effort to secure things cost-effectively, without unduly restricting or constraining activities to the extent that value is destroyed rather than secured.

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